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Forum raises urgent Mekong issues

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A man pull a fishing net from the water on the Mekong river near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Hong Menea

Forum raises urgent Mekong issues

The 7th Mekong River Commission (MRC) Regional Stakeholder Forum was held in Thailand capital Bangkok over Monday and Tuesday, with participants discussing urgent issues facing the Mekong region, the Secretariat of the MRC has said.

Attending the two-day event were 180 representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, research institutions, the private sector, development partners and civil society organisations.

“Much more needs to be done to provide a comprehensive response to climate change, reduce flood and drought risks, protect environmental assets and increase basin-wide benefits. Achieving these goals is essential and urgent as populations and economies grow and climate change advances.

“This is why the Mekong River Commission has been placing a much greater focus, more than ever before, on trans-boundary cooperation and joint projects among and between member countries. We are committed to supporting our member countries and our people in turning potential conflict into cooperation using every means possible,” MRC CEO Dr An Pich Hatda of Cambodia said.

Raised at the forum were the results and lessons learned in working together on cross-border issues, as well as opportunities provided by the World Bank funded MRC Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management (M-IWRM) Project and the impact it has made.

Through the project, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have been in collaboration on five initiatives since 2014 to enhance trans-boundary cooperation and improve integrated water resources management practices at the sub-basin level.

“Concrete achievements realised so far include common understandings of issues, trans-boundary coordination mechanisms, joint action plans, strengthened data and information exchange and communication,” the Secretariat of the MRC said.

It continued that three key areas were identified as in need of urgent addressing by the forum.

These included positive and transparent cooperation on results shared with the Mekong countries; improvement of the MRC data and information system utilising highly developed technologies to improve the data and information sharing and dissemination on water resource management; and cost and benefit sharing to be integrated into planning formulation and project implementation.

Tek Vannara, NGO Forum of Cambodia executive director, told The Post that at the forum he had requested that grassroots organisations – such as fishing communities and water resource management communities – are included into any new organisational mechanisms.

He also requested the systematic sharing of water data and information by hydroelectricity developers, also stating that MRC must work to allow hydroelectricity developers to provide timely information on water management in order for affected communities to be prepared for water level changes.

“This information must be translated into four languages at the same time automatically. And the programme must be produced on smartphones. When people know the alert, they can be well prepared,” he said.

He also requested that the forum’s participants manage fishing resources well in the Mekong river basin and its delta to ensure a good habitat for Cambodia’s egg laying fish along the Tonle Sap in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

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